“They don’t care about anyone else. Sometimes they kill animals just to watch them die. Sometimes, they graduate to people. Some of them don’t really mean to do anything wrong, but they just can’t wrap their minds around the fact that other people matter, too. They’re dead inside.”
“So you kill them.” Claire made the leap of logic herself, but she couldn’t keep a horrified look from taking over her face, and when he met her eyes, she jerked her gaze away from him.
Backing away, like he knew she would.
Like she should.
“These people are called Nulls, and they’re the enemy. The Society tracks them down, and once they get a lock on a Null’s location, they hand the file over to me. Because I’m not right either, Claire. I’m not a Null, but I’m not right.”
She opened her mouth, but he didn’t let her speak. “I can slip in and out of any building. I can stand screaming in the middle of a street without anyone noticing or caring. I’m forgettable. I can kill without ever arousing fear.”
Claire looked up. Looked at him. Into him.
“You’re the other kind of wrong,” she said, each word another twist of the knife. “And so am I.”
It was one thing to think, during your worst moments, that you were unlovable. That it wasn’t your parents’ fault that they couldn’t be bothered to stick around. That the kids at school would always stare straight through you. It was one thing to feel completely inconsequential.
It was another thing to find out that you were right.
Some people are born wrong.
It explained everything. No matter how hard she tried, or how sweet she was, or how often she went to the same places and did the same things, hoping that someone would eventually notice, no one ever did. And if what Nix was telling her was true, then no one ever would. She was constitutionally incapable of mattering, all because of some invisible birth defect she couldn’t control.
It really is just me, and nothing I do will ever change it.
The death of a dream was an eclipsing thing, and the hope that someday things would be better had been Claire’s mainstay for as long as she could remember. She wanted to fight to hold on to that sliver of maybe, but she couldn’t bring herself to doubt what she was hearing, because it explained so much.
“You’re not a Nobody, Claire.” Nix was adamant, and his words managed to pierce the thoughts gumming up her head. “I’d know if you were.”
“A Nobody?” Claire repeated dully. “Is that what we’re called?”
It’s what he’d told her over and over again when she asked him who he was—Nobody. He’d said it like it was a name, an identity, and a curse, all rolled into one.
“Nobody is the word for someone who can’t give their energy to anyone else, yes. It’s what I am. It’s why I make the perfect assassin. People don’t notice me. They look straight through me. They forget me.”
“I didn’t.” In the days since she’d first seen him, staring down the barrel of his gun, Nix’s face had never been far from her mind. She’d thought it was because there was something wrong with her, something that drew her—perversely—to her killer.
In a way, Claire supposed that she’d been right.
“You’re special, Claire. No one else has ever been able to really see me, and no matter what I do, I can’t shake you. Even when I fade, you find me.”
“Fade? Is that what you’re doing when you close your eyes?” Claire asked, her mind working through the logic of his words like a calculator crunching numbers.
“Fading is something Nobodies can do. Even if I wanted to be noticed, most people would look straight past me, but if I concentrate, if I push all of the thoughts out of my mind and stop trying to be worth something, then I fade. People can’t see me at all. And because objects have energy, too, when I fade, as far as the world is concerned, I don’t exist. The laws of physics don’t apply to me. I can walk through walls. I can shake off gravity. I can disappear.”
Claire wrapped her arms around her chest. What Nix was describing—it was beautiful. She wanted to disappear. She wanted to walk on water.
She wanted to fly.
But more than anything, Claire wanted the courage to take one step forward. One step closer to Nix, who didn’t believe she was a Nobody for the same reason she hadn’t been able to imagine anyone capable of walking past him without wanting to fall into the blue of his eyes.
“I see you,” she told him softly, afraid that she would lose the words if she didn’t let them loose. “Faded or not, Nobody or not, I see you. I see you when I close my eyes. I see you when you’re not even there.”
Nix took a step back, like she’d hit him. “That’s why you’re special, Claire. That’s why The Society wants you dead. Normals aren’t supposed to notice Nobodies. You must be some kind of outlier.”
“I’m not special, Nix. I’m wrong.”
“No. You’re not. You’re—”
“I’m just like you. Don’t you get it? The reason I can see you is because we’re the same.”
“It doesn’t work that way.”
“How do you know?” Claire pressed. “Have you ever met another Nobody?”
“You haven’t, have you?”
Nix refused to shake his head, but Claire saw the answer in the set of his jaw.
“Think about it, Nix. You talked about energy, right? And everybody has it? And people exchange it, but for whatever reason, Nobodies can’t give their energy to anyone else. Maybe it’s because we’re weak. Maybe everyone else’s energy is like a laser beam, and ours is a cloud of smoke. So when you put us with someone whose energy is normal, we’re practically invisible. But when you put us together …”
She’d felt his stare that first day. Before she’d seen him, before she’d had any reason whatsoever to believe that somebody was there, she’d known. Because she wasn’t used to being looked at, and he’d been staring.
She’d never met another person who felt so right.
“You’re not a Nobody,” he said—like he could falsify her claim just by denying it out loud.
“Yes, Nix, I am.”
“No, you’re not. Nobodies don’t matter, Claire, and I’ve never met somebody who matters as much as you.”